In surprise vote, Senate keeps Obamas methane rules in place

May 11, 2017 by  
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In a stunning win for environmental activists , the U.S. Senate voted against repealing the BLM methane rule (originally passed during the Obama administration) to limit methane pollution on public land. Overturned with a 51-49 vote , the deciding “No” was from Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona . Under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), lawmakers can overturn the rules of a previously instated administration within the first 60 days of their enactment. Because of this, Congress has voted 13 times to overturn a selection of Obama rules. Many of these relate to srteam protection, internet privacy and the shooting of hibernating bears, reports BuzzFeed. The outcome of Wednesday’s vote is being lauded as positive news, as the Obama-era rule requires gas drillers to limit leaking, venting or burning methane, which is responsible for fueling climate change . In present-day America, where the President believes climate change is a “hoax” and has ties to the oil industry, outcomes such as this one are rarely witnessed. Politicians including Sen. McCain, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina all voted against the repeal to prevent the government from drawing up any future rules that might restrict methane emissions. McCain said in a statement , “Passage of the resolution would have prevented the federal government , under any administration, from issuing a rule that is ‘similar’. I join the call for strong action to reduce pollution from venting, flaring and leaks associated with oil and gas production operations on public and Indian land.” McCaine added that the smarter thing the Trump administration could have done was to release an updated rule to improve the one passed during Obama’s time as President. Related: Senate Republicans could save methane rules from Trump Commenting on McCain’s surprising stance, Mark Brownstein of the Environmental Defense Fund said, “The oil and gas industry gets into power and the first thing they ask for is a repeal of pollution rules, it just doesn’t make people happy. Senator McCain once again demonstrated that he is a voice of common sense and reason.” According to the Bureau of Land Management , enough methane gas is wasted by drillers to supply 6.2 million homes a year. This, in turn, costs taxpayers $46 to $204 million in lost royalties. Considering solar technology is becoming more affordable and countries such as Germany and Costa Rica have already proven populations can thrive on renewable energy , it seems clear the future is green. Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute deemed the outcome “disappointing” and is calling for a review of the rule under a new executive order which was recently released by the White House. However, because of the short time limit on the CRA, it is now too late for another Congressional resolution to take place to repeal the BLM methane rule. Via The Washington Post , BuzzFeed Image via Colorado Politics , Newsmax.com

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In surprise vote, Senate keeps Obamas methane rules in place

Only 25 glaciers remain in Montana’s shrinking Glacier National Park

May 11, 2017 by  
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Our warming climate is ravaging the storied glaciers of Montana’s Glacier National Park . The United States Geological Survey (USGS) and Portland State University recently released data revealing the devastation of climate change on the area over 50 years. The park’s glaciers shrunk by 39 percent on average, but some dwindled by up to 85 percent. An estimated 150 glaciers filled the park in 1850; today there are around 25. The researchers tracked two glaciers on United States Forest Service land and 37 glaciers in Glacier National Park . But now just 26 glaciers in the park are bigger than 25 acres, the benchmark for a body of ice to be correctly termed a glacier. Geologist Andrew Fountain of Portland State said, “While the shrinkage in Montana is more severe than some other places in the U.S., it is in line with trends that have been happening on a global scale.” Related: The Glaciers of Glacier National Park May All Disappear by 2030 The researchers scrutinized digital maps from satellites and aerial photography to measure the outer edges of glaciers in the late summer, when seasonal snow has disappeared and it’s easier to tell how large a glacier truly is. Site visits added to the data. The researchers looked at glaciers in 1966, 1998, 2005, and 2015/2016 to track 50 years of climate change in Glacier National Park. The news isn’t good; it shows visually how the mountain ecosystem has altered in the northern Rocky Mountains. Lead USGS scientist Daniel Fagre said, “The park-wide loss of ice can have ecological effects on aquatic species by changing stream water volume, water temperature, and run-off timing in the higher elevations of the park.” The loss of glaciers in the park named for them could also hurt tourism in the area. The research is intended to help park management and inform the public; according to USGS it will assist scientists in their understanding of the effects of large scale climate patterns on glaciers in distinctive mountain environments . Via United States Geological Survey Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Only 25 glaciers remain in Montana’s shrinking Glacier National Park

Trump orders review of Obama-era fuel economy standards

March 16, 2017 by  
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In another move aimed at dismantling former President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, President Donald Trump on Wednesday told car executives and auto workers gathered near Detroit that he would order a review of the fuel economy standards for cars and trucks that were put in place by the Obama Administration in 2012. The rules would have raised average fleetwide fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 — well above the current 35.5 mpg requirement that has been credited with decreasing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that climate scientists say are the primary drivers of global warming. Trump spoke at a former WWII bomber factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan that is being repurposed to test autonomous vehicles. The president said that he would “ensure that any regulations we have protect and defend your jobs, your factories,” adding that the White House is “setting up a task force in every federal agency to identify and remove any regulation that undermines American auto production.” Related: US vehicle emissions hit record low as fuel economy climbs to record high While Trump talked of ending the “assault” on the US auto industry, it is unclear exactly what he is referring to. Despite carmakers complaining about the EPA’s fuel economy standards, a recent report from the regulatory agency found that Detroit was actually outperforming the GHG emission standards while at the same time selling a record number of new cars and trucks. Last year automakers sold a record 17.55 million vehicles  in the US — the seventh straight year of rising sales. Also, Trump didn’t mention that Obama has been credited with helping to save the domestic auto industry. A bipartisan congressional oversight panel concluded that the government intervention resulted in the industry becoming more efficient, allowing automakers “to become more flexible and better able to meet changing consumer demands, while still remaining profitable.” Via The Christian Science Monitor Image 1 , 2 via Wikimedia

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Trump orders review of Obama-era fuel economy standards

Antique farm equipment reborn as delicate works of art

March 16, 2017 by  
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These stunning nature-inspired sculptures are so beautiful you might not notice at first glance what they’re carved from—old farm equipment. Self-taught artist Dan Rawlings recycles these discarded tools into canvases and sculptures . By giving these forgotten tools new life, he hopes to remind others to appreciate the value of our existing possessions and the environment rather than succumb to the never-ending excesses of commercialism. Based in Gloucestershire, UK, Rawlings is drawn to the fun challenge of working with old found objects that still have sentimental value even if they’re damaged beyond use. Using a variety of tools including a handheld plasma torch, welders , and scalpels, the artist reshapes and carves intricate nature-inspired scenes. He writes: “I try to create images that remind people of the moments when everything seems possible and free; times when climbing a tree, or sitting admiring the way its branches twist and curl means nothing, but means everything.” Related: Artist Nikki Ella Whitlock recycles wine bottle fragments into ethereal mosaics Although Rawlings works with many different materials, he’s most well known for metal carvings . His manipulation of metals can be seen in his reworking of old saws to the walls of vans. + Dan Rawlings

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Antique farm equipment reborn as delicate works of art

Trump to sign executive orders rolling back Obama’s climate protection policies

February 21, 2017 by  
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The environment could be the next victim of President Donald Trump’s executive orders. The Washington Post reported  that according to individuals briefed on the measure, Trump is seeking to curtail some of President Barack Obama’s policies on water pollution , coal and the environment through upcoming executive orders . Signing such orders would signal the Trump administration will work to champion the fossil fuel industry , regardless of the economic growth the country could see through renewable energy . According to The Washington Post, people familiar with the proposals who asked to remain anonymous said Trump is currently preparing executive orders and could announce them later this week. The orders largely target rules put in place under Obama to protect the environment. It could take a while to actually implement the orders, but they would serve as a reminder the Trump administration is dead set on promoting fossil fuels. Related: Insider says Trump could pull America out of Paris deal within days One order could direct the Environmental Protection Agency to start rewriting a 2015 regulation limiting greenhouse gas emissions of electric utilities. Under the same order the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management could rescind a freeze on federal coal leasing. Another order could change the 2015 Waters of the United States rule, which provides authority for the federal government over rivers, wetlands, and streams that feed into large water bodies. The rule impacts some development that could pollute the smaller waterways. Trump has said such regulations aiming to safeguard the environment hurt economic growth. He’s condemned rules put in place to reduce the use of fossil fuels as an attack on the coal industry. While the president’s moves could face legal battles, the lifting of the coal leasing freeze could take effect immediately. Via The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and U.S. Department of the Interior on Flickr

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Trump to sign executive orders rolling back Obama’s climate protection policies

House Republicans move to make methane pollution great again

February 6, 2017 by  
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Congressional Republicans are attempting to quickly dismantle former President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations to combat climate change . On Friday, the GOP-controlled House voted 221-191 to overturn an Interior Department rule that aims to limit “fugitive” methane emissions from oil and gas drilling operations on public lands. The natural gas is wasted through leaks, intentional venting, or burning off the gas — a process known as flaring. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global warming potential of methane (CH4) is 34 times stronger than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 100-year time scale and 86 times more potent than CO2 over 20 years when climate carbon feedbacks are included. Three Democrats — Jim Costa (CA-16), Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Collin Peterson (MN-7) — voted in favor of repealing the rule, while 11 Republicans opposed repeal. According to Open Secrets , a guide to money in politics from the Center for Responsive Politics, Costa received $94,525 from the oil and gas industry during the 2015-2016 campaign cycle, Cuellar received $165,305 in campaign funds from the oil and gas industry, and Peterson received $38,075 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. Related: Aliso Canyon natural gas facility could reopen despite unresolved issues over leak “The rollback gives companies permission to waste $330 million dollars of public assets a year, and generate huge amounts of avoidable pollution that contaminates our air and has a devastating effect on public health,” said Elizabeth Thompson, president of the Environmental Defense Action Fund, in a statement . “We call on the U.S. Senate to protect the interests of the American people, and not cast a vote for business as usual for the oil and gas industry.” The legislation next goes to the Republican-majority Senate for a vote. In addition to allowing unchecked gas flaring again, House Republicans last week voted to repeal an Obama era rule designed to keep coal waste from contaminating streams and waterways. According to the Interior Department, the regulation protects 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests, preventing coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby waters. Via The Washington Post Images via Flickr 1 , 2 Save

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House Republicans move to make methane pollution great again

Green walls and textured surfaces breathe new life into an abandoned row of shop offices

February 6, 2017 by  
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Singaporean firm L Architects transformed a row of abandoned half-built shop offices into a visually striking developer’s head office and gallery in Johor, Malaysia. The architects preserved the gable roofs and metal-framed structures, relying on material textures and patterns to give new life to the old buildings. The modern adaptive reuse project harmoniously combines a mix of hard concrete, metal decking lines, patterned brickwork, glass, and porous green walls. Located near the Johor Straits across from Singapore, the Series of Barns comprises eight three-story structures built on the grid facing the water. To blend the renovated buildings into the rural landscape, L Architects used natural materials to create a textured tapestry-like facade that’s both eye-catching and well matched with the surroundings. Currently half of the gabled structures are occupied. The unused four structures are kept as spares for future use with their front facades covered in green creepers grown on tensioned wires. The lobby and reception is housed in the gabled structure that protrudes slightly from the rest of the buildings and was built with a large glass curtain wall . The remaining three structures feature brick facades. Related: HHF Architects’ renovated a group of crumbling buildings to help revitalize an entire neighborhood L Architects write: “In this project, we wanted to experiment with various ways how we can use a seemingly modular material like brick to create a texturized façade. An attempt to break the monolithic flat surfaces of the barns. When the sun’s strength is mitigated it creates interesting shadows formed by the playful arrangement of the protruded bricks.” The eight gabled structures are elevated off the ground, providing space for shaded parking spaces underneath. In addition to the lobby, the Series of Barns contains exhibition areas, a small theater room, a conference room, office space , and an outdoor deck. + L Architects Via ArchDaily Images by Muhamad shafiq bin samsuri

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Green walls and textured surfaces breathe new life into an abandoned row of shop offices

Malia Obama attends Dakota Access Pipeline protest

January 31, 2017 by  
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Her father may have left the Oval Office, but 18-year-old Malia Obama’s work has just begun. The former First Daughter attended a Dakota Access Pipeline protest at the Sundance Film Festival to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. She joined protesters the same day President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum to start moving forward with the contested oil pipeline . Malia is planning to attend Harvard University this fall after a gap year, and reportedly obtained an internship with producer Harvey Weinstein recently. But she took the time to join an event expressing support for the Standing Rock Sioux, as it appears the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline won’t be ending anytime soon. Related: Trump signs executive actions to reinstate Keystone and Dakota Access Pipeline In his last press conference, President Barack Obama said he didn’t think his daughters would pursue careers in politics , but did indicate they might be involved in social issues. He said, “I think that they have, in part through osmosis, in part through dinnertime conversations, appreciated the fact that this is a big, complicated country, and democracy is messy and it doesn’t always work exactly the way you might want…But if you’re engaged and you’re involved, then there are a lot more good people than bad in this country, and there’s a core decency to this country, and that they got to be a part of lifting that up. And I expect they will be. And in that sense, they are representative of this generation that makes me really optimistic.” Author Joshua Kendall, who’s written about presidents parenting, told The Christian Science Monitor First Children have spoken out on issues in the past, and Malia “is firmly in that tradition.” President Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy participated in marches and was once arrested at an anti-Central Intelligence Agency demonstration. President Gerald Ford’s son Michael said Richard Nixon should confess his role in Watergate before his father pardoned Nixon. Via Grist and The Christian Science Monitor Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Malia Obama attends Dakota Access Pipeline protest

Wheelchair-friendly tiny house proves universal design can be cool

January 31, 2017 by  
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In a perfect world, architecture would be accessible for everyone, but sadly, people with disabilities or mobility issues are often limited to the physical barriers found in typical constructions. Vermont-based firm LineSync Architecture wants to change that with a new brand of accessible architecture, starting with their wheelchair-friendly tiny house , the Wheel Pad. https://youtu.be/EzE7irfnCbY The Wheel Pad is a prototype home for those who need more long-term adaptability from a home design . The 200-square-feet residence was designed in consultation with home health nurses, physicians, physical therapists and occupational therapists. Related: This $10k tiny house can be built with a hex key in less than a day The Wheel Pad was designed with a number of features geared to a wide range of needs, such as fixtures installed at lower heights, double swing doors, and a Hoyer lift that slides on a ceiling track to provide mobility assistance . Like most tiny homes, the space is compact, however, large windows give the interior a nice, airy feel. The home is also built on a mobile chassis base , which means it can be parked without a permit in most places around the US, allowing the inhabitants total freedom to travel. According to the architects, the design has a wide range of possible uses, “With Wheel Pad, we will change the way our injured soldiers and civilians come home from rehab. Wheel Pad is “disruptive” in the best sense of the word. It seems everyone has a use for Wheel Pad including: spinal cord injuries, people newly using wheelchairs or prosthetics, elderly veterans and civilians, hospice care, children with disabilities.” + LineSync Architecture Via Treehugger Video via Chibi Moku Photographs by Carolyn Bates

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Wheelchair-friendly tiny house proves universal design can be cool

World’s most powerful wind turbine breaks 24-hour record for energy generation

January 31, 2017 by  
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Anyone who still thinks wind power is just a load of hot air obviously hasn’t been paying attention. Witness the V164 , a prototype wind turbine that Denmark’s MHI Vestas Offshore tested at Østerild over December. With a rated power of 9 megawatts under optimum conditions, the V164 set a new energy-generation record by a single wind turbine by producing a staggering 216,000 kilowatt-hours over a 24-hour period. The V164 is no glorified windmill. Standing nearly 722 feet tall, the V164 boasts with a sweep area of 227,377 square feet—or larger than the London Eye. Its 262-foot-long blades, the equivalent of nine London double-decker buses, weigh 77,160 pounds apiece. The platform is part of MH Vestas Offshore’s “continued commitment to deliver affordable offshore wind power,” Torben Hvid Larsen, the firm’s chief technical officer, said in a statement. Related: The World’s Most Powerful Wind Turbine Has Blades That Are Over 24 Stories Tall “We are committed to delivering turbine technology that is in line with the development of our industry, based on our 20-plus years of offshore experience,” he said. “Reliability remains a key enabler, and our approach to developing our existing platform supports this strategy.” With the new record secured, the prototype is now ready to go to market. Built with the unforgiving North Sea environment in mind, V164 has an operational life span of about 25 years, after which 80 percent of it can be recycled. “We believe that our wind turbine will play an integral part in enabling the offshore industry to continue to drive down the cost of energy,” Larsen added. + MHI Vestas Offshore Via New Atlas

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World’s most powerful wind turbine breaks 24-hour record for energy generation

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